S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Ernst, Mr J (meteorological observation)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

Mr J. Ernst made systematic meteorological observations at Graaff-Reinet throughout 1818 and 1819, recording the temperature, barometric pressure, rainfall, and prevailing winds. Tables of his results were published in a paper by Dr R. Knox*, "On the climate of southern Africa, with an abstract of a meteorological register kept at Graaf Reynet", in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (October 1821, pp. 279-287). Knox wrote that hitherto meteorological observations had been confined to the Cape Peninsula, which appeared to him to have a different climate from the inland regions.

According to the Weather Bureau's history of meteorology in South Africa systematic meteorological observations were initiated by the Cape Town apothecary P.E. Wahlstrand* in 1818. His meteorological reports appeared in the Government Gazette from time to time between September 1818 and June 1825. Ernst may well have started his observations before or simultaneously with Wahlstrand. He therefore deserves to be recognised as a pioneer of systematic meteorology in South Africa and as the fist to record systematic observations in the inland regions.

List of sources:
History of meteorology in South Africa. South African Weather Bureau News Letter, centenary edition, October 1960, No. 139 (whole number).

Kirby, P.R. Robert Knox and his South African Research. South African Medical Journal, 13 June 1940, Vol. 14(13), pp. 254-261.

Compiled by: C. Plug